Fresh-faced MPs arrive in Ottawa for orientation day
A group of fresh-faced MPs start their orientation session on October 29, 2019.
OTTAWA – A group of novice members of Parliament arrived in Ottawa today for a full-day orientation session to ease their transition into political life.
Most walked in solo, others hand-in-hand with their spouses and faced – some for the first time – a barrage of cameras and reporters eagerly awaiting their first comment.
A notable change from the 2015 orientation is the number of representatives from the Bloc Quebecois, which now has third-party status in the House of Commons.
"[Coming here] as an MP, it’s a little bit bizarre," the Bloc’s newly-elected Stephane Bergeron said in a scrum with media. "I didn’t expect to come back as an MP here, destiny is quite strange sometimes."
He said he looks forward to working with colleagues across the aisle.
"[The Bloc Quebecois] will have an important role to make this Parliament operate. We’ll collaborate, and we’re asking the other parties to collaborate also."
After being funnelled into a briefing room, the MPs were welcomed by Parliamentary staff and asked such ice-breaker questions as, "is there anybody here who before becoming an MP ran a small business?"
In what felt like the first-day of school, members were asked to raise their hand when they heard the province they were from.
This year, the 98 new members were segmented into smaller sub-groups, as opposed to 2015 when the entire freshman class was welcomed at once. The first group arrived last Thursday and more will flow through this week.
"Most new members will go through two-days of an administrative orientation where we’re talking about things like setting up their office, managing the budget, and staffing issues," said Jeffrey LeBlanc, co-chair of the House of Commons’ members’ orientation program.
His team first goes through basic to-dos with MPs like getting their parking pass, smart phone and a certified identification card. On their second visit, they’ll be given a tour of Parliament Hill, and get a run down on procedural matters like how debates and voting take place – a process that will be somewhat different now under the framework of a minority government.
"The basics of the rules of how the House functions are the same regardless of whether it’s a majority or minority Parliament so we’ll explain to them what the schedule looks like," said LeBlanc. "I think there will probably be more sensitivity to certain issues given the uncertainty that surrounds a minority Parliament."
The Liberals will venture into the 43rd session down 20 seats to 157 in total, the Conservatives gain 26 to 122, the Bloc Quebecois will occupy 32, up from 22, the NDP give up 15 and hold on to 25, and the Green will reside in three, up from one.
New members are also required to take part in harassment prevention training, as they were in 2015. Life as an MP has long been deemed to be straining on personal wellbeing and relationships, with long working days and a great deal of travel.
LeBlanc said, to help with the transition, parties will sometimes pair newcomers with veteran MPs. The procedural orientation team also organizes a panel of “experienced MPs who will give them advice based on their own practical experience.”
"The MP panel is a good opportunity to talk about the impact of the job of a Member of Parliament on their family life," he said. "That is a message that often comes out."
The panel will be conducted just before Parliament resumes – a date that hasn’t yet been set by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.